Review Your Financial Habits—Again

With Permission from The Financial Planners Association 2011

The old wisdom that says the economy turns positive in an election year appears to be exactly that – old wisdom. As the economy continues its gyrations and unpleasant news continues regarding housing, gas prices, and food prices, maybe it's time for a review of the way we spend, save and plan for the future. 

Re-evaluate your budget:  In difficult economic times, it's important to limit your spending on unnecessary extras and zero in on what financial goals are truly important. A money coach, your bank, or financial planner can help you with a reality check of your current spending and help you divert more of your weekly paycheck into an emergency fund as well as dollars to pay down debt and increase your savings.

Convert to cash or debit for most of your spending: Develop a "real-money-only" mentality. Your budget will tell you how much to spend, and the best way to stick to those numbers is to shop only with folding money or a debit card. If you're considering a debit card, ask your bank to limit the spending power on that card to the cash balance in your checking account, and be sure to ask how you're protected in case of loss or theft. Also, ask about any fees you may incur.

Shop on a schedule with a comprehensive list:  First, planned shopping trips mean you'll save gas as well as time. Second, a carefully planned shopping list allows you to see everything you want and allows you to split your priorities between legitimate needs and items you can put on hold. What about the "wait for" side of the list? Keep those items in their own column on your main list week-to-week, so you can keep on the lookout for sales and coupons.

About those coupons: If you're searching only in newspapers or print circulars for coupons, you might be missing big savings. If you have access to the Internet, use your search engine to identify manufacturers of items you regularly buy and see if you can get on their e-mail list for special coupons online. Major retail chains also e-mail coupons and news of special sales to customers online as well.

Think about the holidays and year-end tax planning now: December is probably the most damaging money month of the year. Now is a good time to start planning what you'll spend on presents and entertaining during the holiday season. Also, set aside some time to review your tax situation.
Assess your current financial situation: If you're not already working with a financial planner, maybe you should be. Plan a visit now with a financial planner. Making a financial plan in bad economic times can be a good idea because you'll develop a more protective mindset of your finances that can reap even greater benefits when times are good.

HealthQuest EAP has additional resources: The HealthQuest program has helped many employees with the financial stress brought on by the current unsure economy and offers numerous resources to help successfully weather the uncertain times. Call confidentially 1-888-275-1205 and then selection Option 7.